How do you complete the ‘Science of Speed’ equation for the new Shimano Dura-Ace & Ultegra groups? New wheels, of course! And not just any wheels, but something that Shimano considers “redefining” when it comes to their wheel offerings. Specifically, they asked themselves what was most important—speed? Aerodynamics? Rigidity? That probably depends on the type of rider and each specific use, which led to three distinct platforms.
Sort of like the rim brake thing, Shimano will offer their new wheels in tubular form, but most people will only see these as tubeless-ready options for the road. With a goal of reducing drag without sacrificing control, new rim profiles were developed to fit three distinct rider profiles. That includes the C36, C50, and the C60_HR or High Rigidity. For the climbers, the 36mm deep C36 is skewed towards being light weight over aerodynamics and lateral rigidity.
The C50, at 50mm deep is more of an all-around wheel with equal focus on aerodynamics, rigidity, and weight. In terms of aerodynamics, the new C50-TL outperforms the previous C60-TU by a full watt, and it offers 5.1w less drag compared to the outgoing C40-TL. Just as important though, the wheel also offers similar levels of control to the shallower C40-TL with less impact from cross winds.
Finally, the C60_HR offers +20% increased lateral rigidity for sprinting and heavier riders while also featuring low drag.
Each of the rims measure 21mm internally with a 28mm external width, and a hooked bead.
Tubeless ready, each rim comes pre-taped with a high quality tubeless valve that matches perfectly to the contour of the carbon rim. Note that the wheels include a label that advises against using tire levers. That may or may not be possible depending on the tires you choose. I started with some Vittoria Corsa tube-type tires which went onto the rim without tools fairly easily (you can still run tubes on these wheels with any tire thanks to the hooked bead).
However, the only tubeless tires I had on hand were a pair of Continental GP5000 Tubeless tires, but they were so tight that I wrestled with them to no avail. Eventually, I had to resort to one well-placed lever stroke to get the tire on the rim enough for it to seat. Long story short, it will depend on what tires you choose and your abilities, but Shimano would rather you not use a tire lever.
12 Speed Specific Freehub (Dura Ace Only)
A big part of the new wheel design is at the center of each build. Shimano wanted wheels that offered increased driving rigidity as well as lighter weight. The new rear hub helps accomplish both. As mentioned in our Dura-Ace and Ultegra overview, the new Dura-Ace wheels feature a 12 speed-specific freehub. This was all about saving weight without creating a freehub that will get damaged by the cassette cogs. In just the hub alone, Shimano has dropped an impressive 45g compared to the R9170 FH.
Of course these are then only compatible with Shimano 12 speed road cassettes, but those cassettes are still compatible with other wheels with the older HG freehubs.
Inside that new freehub you’ll find Shimano’s Direct Engagement system which is similar to that in the current XTR hubs. Compared to the current C40 wheels, this freehub mechanism alone improves driving rigidity by 63%. It also offers low drag, and a fairly quiet (but not silent) freewheeling.
In terms of lateral rigidity, the C36 and C50 wheels each use a 1:1 spoke pattern on the front wheel while the C60_HR uses a 2:1 spoke pattern on the front hub for 10% increased rigidity. You’ll also find thicker 1.8mm spokes on the C60_HR vs 1.5mm spokes on the C36 and C50 for reduced weight.
Rear wheels also use a 2:1 Optbal lacing pattern for improved lateral and driving rigidity.
For Shimano, Centerlock brake mounts and cup and cone bearings are still king.
What do they Weigh?
Shimano states that every gram counts, but they’ve given priority to reducing weight at the rim. For the C36-TL (Tubeless), that means a 55g reduction in rim weight compared to the current C40, and a claimed weight of 1338g for the set. When weighed in real life with tape and valves, that number is actually 1398g which makes us think that Shimano’s claimed weights are without. The C50-TL has a claimed weight of 1,465g, and the C60_HR-TL is 1,609g.
Dura-Ace and Ultegra Wheelset Options
While tubular versions of the wheels will technically be available in both rim brake and disc brake spec, Shimano hasn’t provided pricing info as they’re basically pro team-only. That leaves us with the C36-TL and C50-TL which are $2,099.99 for each set, and the C60_HR-TL which is a bit more at $2,199.99 a set.
For the first time in history, Shimano will also be offering full carbon wheels at the Ultegra level. These wheels feature nearly identical rims to Dura-Ace except for the C36 which is slightly different. Also, the Ultegra wheels get a standard HG splined freehub body instead of the 12 speed specific version found on the Dura-Ace hubs.
Because of this, the wheels are slightly heavier with the Ultegra C36 a claimed 1,488g, the C50 at 1,570g, and the C60 (not HR) at 1,649g. But they’re also quite a bit less expensive at $1,399.99 per set.
There’s no specific timeline for wheelset availability, other than Dura-Ace aftermarket availability starting in October 2021, and Ultegra starting “this fall”.
Missed our coverage on the new Dura-Ace and Ultegra groups? Get all the details right here.